PGA Tour veteran Adam Schenk begins the weekend at the 2023 Valspar Championship with the solo lead at 7 under. After grabbing a share of the first-round lead, the former Purdue Boilermakers golfer kept going early Friday morning with a 2-under 69. While his alma mater may be a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, Schenk he will play the role of a Cinderella underdog over the next 36 holes with Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jordan Spieth (-5) and Justin Thomas (-3) all nipping at his heels.
Sam Burns is also on the fringes of contention in the draw. He looks set to become the first player since Steve Stricker to successfully win a tournament three years in a row. arrived as the two-time defending champion in Innisbrook. After his previous driver was deemed non-compliant earlier this season, he finally found a comfortable replacement and it showed on the Copperhead Course.
Stricker isn’t the only former Valspar Championship winner to factor in over the weekend, as Spieth reigned supreme eight years ago in the Tampa area. Having competed in the WM Phoenix Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Spieth will have his eyes set on making the final nine on Sunday.
1. Adam Schenk (-7): Schenk hasn’t taken a week off in 2023. Yes, you read that right. Kicking off his year at the Sony Open, Schenk’s appearance at the Valspar Championship marks his 10th straight week of competition. During that time, he has tied on seven cuts with his best finish a T20 at the Farmers Insurance Open. Although unconventional, Schenk’s reason for this constant schedule is good: he and his wife are expecting a child in the coming weeks.
“I’ve generally been playing a lot anyway but I’ve got a little boy here in about a month and a half so I’m trying to make as many points as I can to get as much time as I can and spend time with him and my wife, who will be very special,” Schenck said.
2. Kramer Hickok (-6)
T3. Tommy Fleetwood, Jordan Spieth, Cody Gribble, Davis Riley (-5)
T7. Wyndham Clark, Matt Wallace, Taylor Moore, JT Poston, Stephan Jaegar (-4)
T12. Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson, Adam Long, Byeong Hun An, Doug Ghim, Rory Sabbatini, Alex Smalley, Lucas Glover (-3)
The debate about the best winless player on the PGA Tour often centers around young stars like Cameron Young and Sahith Theegala, but Fleetwood rightfully belongs in the conversation. English has come close many times, especially at Florida State, and he likes his chances of finally breaking through (if he’s able to persevere).
“Sometimes you have it, sometimes you lose it, sometimes you’re somewhere in between,” Fleetwood said of his patience. “So far this week, I’ve done well. It’s always something you choose, whether it’s your own expectations or trying to push things when you don’t feel like it. It’s such a hard thing to do. I can only speak for the last couple of days and I feel like I’ve done well. I just want to keep that attitude going into the weekend. Obviously the further you go into the week, the harder it gets in some ways. But, yeah, just keep your attitude and take each shot as it comes.”
If you can’t beat them, join them
Hickok missed eight of his first nine cuts in the 2022-23 season and began searching for answers. Instead of word of mouth or advice from others, just look at which swing coach players were playing the best. With this in mind, Hickok sought the advice of Mark Blackburn. The fruits of their labor are beginning to blossom as Hickok arrived at the Valspar Championship having made three straight cuts, including a T14 finish at the Honda Classic.
“I changed coaches in the fall and I’m just making some changes and so when I go into tournaments, I kind of go back to my bad habits… It’s definitely better than last week, and it’s better than it was the week before. It’s just coming,” Hickok said of his new partnership with swing coach Mark Blackburn. “His guys were playing really well. Max Homa was playing great. Chez Reavie seems to win every other year. Trey Mullinax won last year. He’s got Justin Rose, he won this year. So I tried to follow the hot hand, and I really it’s helped a lot. I’m really excited about our journey together.”
Wait, why is Rob Gronkowski here?
The former Patriots and Buccaneers were on the field in Innisbrook on Friday. Taking in the sights and scenes, Gronkowski stole the spotlight with his charisma and his own personal take on Scottie Scheffler’s Masters Dinner of Champions.
“My menu would be cheeseburgers, chicken, buffalo wings with blue cheese on the side, and of course my great cooler right here with a frozen drink in it, I just get a little messy at any time, baby,” Gronkowski said. . “Is this when you mean by ‘menu’, like food?”
Valspar Championship 2023 Odds, Picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Jordan Spieth: 5-1
- Tommy Fleetwood: 27/4
- Adam Schenk: 15/2
- Kramer Hickok: 2/17
- Justin Thomas: 9-1
- Davis Riley: 10-1
- Wyndham Clark: 12-1
- Stefan Jaggar: 18-1
- Taylor Moore: 18-1
- JT Poston: 25-1
Thomas sits just two strokes behind his good friend Spieth and has yet to hit his irons well. He ranks second in strokes gained off the tee and ninth in approach strokes. So if his typical approach game — his usual strong point — shows up over the weekend, he’ll be in good shape. Poston at 25-1 is also exciting as he leads the field to a winning approach. The two-time PGA Tour winner is a player who has looked eager to get his third, and if his player starts to cooperate he can do just that.
Rick Gehman and Mark Immelman break down Round 2 of the Valspar Championship before the weekend gets underway. Follow and listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.